WUPATKI AND STELLA PESHLAKAI

After the Kachina Dance at Moenkopi, I drove south to Cameron for dinner, photographing the golden light of evening on the sandstone cliffs south of Tuba City on the way. The hotel at Cameron was full, so I camped again in Fordacho.

Back in the late 60s, my friend Dewain Maney took this photograph of Earl Carpenter and yours truly with Stella and Della Peshlakai. That’s Stella pretending to paint us.

I first met Stella when I was working as Preparator at the Museum of Northern Arizona and she was there demonstrating Navajo rug weaving. We became friends and I spent many happy days in her hogan, painting her and her father, Clyde Peshlakai and visiting with the family, her sister Della, brother Clark, daughter Helen, and others.


In 1969, I had my first one-man exhibition at the Stable Galleries in Scottsdale, Arizona. The gallery owner rented a flat bed wagon, team of horses and drivers. Stella came down and set her loom up on the back of the wagon. I set up my french easel and stood there, painting her, as a trophy winning entry in the world famous Scottsdale Parada del Sol Rodeo parade

Dewain called recently to say he had visited Stella at her home at Wupatki, that she is now ninety two, and that she sure would like to see me. So. That was the main reason for my trip to Flagstaff.



The next day, I went out to Dewain’s where he showed me his setup. Unlike many darkroom photographers, Dewain had taken to digital photography with a vengeance. He has mastered the software Corel Painter, and now creates beautifully rendered photographs like this one of Stella.

STELLA PESHLAKAI

By Dewain Maney

Click here to see more of Dewain’s work featuring people, wildlife and landscapes

After lunch in town, at La Fonda Cafe, my parents’ favorite for many years, and where I announced that I was returning to Greasewood Trading Post on the sponsorship that would launch my career, we drove out to visit Stella and Helen’s husband Anthony. We had hoped to join up with Earl and to recreate the old wagon photo, but neither of us had any luck finding Earl. Also, Stella no longer lives in the old family hogan, but in a lovely new house with running water and solar power, and wagons have been replaced by pickup trucks.

We had a great visit, though, sitting on the porch, talking over the old times and of the traditional native herbs that the government will no longer allow the medicine men to gather.


Clyde had lived at Wupatki and worked all his life for the Park. Untold generations before him had lived on that site. The National Park Service, though, in its bureaucratic wisdom, has decided that Stella will be the last of her family allowed to live there. Clyde once told me of the time he went with a delegation to “Washindon-di” and met “that man…what was his name? John, John Kennedy”.


I have to wonder what the Kennedy brothers, Jack and Bobby, would have to say about this National Monument no longer having room enough on its 35,000 plus acres for a single Navajo family that was there since before it was a National Monument.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/03/26/the-last-of-the-navajos-to-live-at-wupatki-national-monument/


http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2014/05/09/311119409/federal-goverment-jeopardizes-navajo-familys-ties-to-their-land


I camped at Dewain’s that night and we continued our catching up and plans for future endeavors.

Then I went to visit Rosa and John and on to Williams. Next, Gallup and the slow road back to Taos.

 

 

 

 

10 thoughts on “WUPATKI AND STELLA PESHLAKAI

  1. Love this adventure so much John and envy you these wonderful life-long connections. So glad you got to go and do this. Thanks too for your enthusiasm over my “Bison Warmup”. You & Fordacho be safe and have fun!

    1. Hi Gena, happy to have you along. I’ve been having such a good time and working so much on several things that I’m having a heck of a time keeping up on my blog. Will try catching up soon…

  2. Very interesting. Would like to have more information. Have always loved the Indians and their peaceable ways.

  3. That was a story that I particularly enjoyed. You know my affinity with the four corners region! How wonderful for you to have had the chance to visit with Stella, a friend from back in the days! Thanks for sharing with us, John!

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